Cracking the Facebook News Feed Code

Many readers may know that Facebook has a recipe for your News Feeds. But most average FB users might not be aware that the News Feed isn’t a true spigot of unfiltered, flowing updates from all of your friends. It’s a secret-sauce algorithm, which, again, readers likely know is one of Facebook’s non-transparent sekrits where they’re able to mystifyingly keep that dude from high school from continuously popping up in your timeline.

Until recently no one had taken it upon themselves to do concentrated, outsider examination of the News Feed – Top News versus Most Recent (both are filtered) – to see what’s going on. Tom Weber staged a one-month experiment to unpack the algorithm, and came out with 10 of Facebook’s secrets – and if you’re crafty, a way to game the News Feed to ensure that you come up more often than others.

What Daily Beast’s Weber wanted to know was why we see the News Feed selections we’re presented with – specifically, how friends’ clicks dictate which networks you’re shown, if certain activities are rewarded with exposure (especially when they’re seemingly unmerited), and how one can work their way into certain people’s feeds. All from an individual user’s standpoint.

They started with Phil Simonetti – a Facebook newbie who let Weber have full run of his activities – and over two dozen volunteers who agreed to sift through their news feeds and report back any and all findings relevant to the experiments. Their overall findings could be pretty valuable to anyone seeking content distribution, especially marketers. For those who use quality engagement as a priority, some of the findings won’t be a surprise, such as:

(…) 7. Links Trump Status Updates. We’re sure you consider all of your musings fascinating–but Facebook doesn’t. At various points in our test, Phil switched between writing plain status updates and posting links to content elsewhere on the Web. Even before some of our friends began stalking Phil, for those who were seeing updates from him, links appeared more frequently than status updates–presumably because links are more effective at driving “user engagement,” which translates into people spending more time on Facebook.

8. Photos and Videos Trump Links. Just as links proved more potent than status updates in making it past Facebook’s filter, so did photos and videos Phil posted. Here, too, it is likely a matter of engagement. Think about times you’ve spotted a thumbnail-size photo from a friend in your feed and clicked to see it full-size. Facebook likes clicks, and photos deliver them.

9. The Power of Comments.(…)

Cracking the Facebook Code (thedailybeast.com)

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